Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

It seems that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s presidential run is running out of steam. According to the Huffington Post, Santorum is “taking a pause from Florida campaigning just days before the Tuesday primary that even he expects to deal him a third consecutive loss.” Yet, despite the fact that he is likely not going to become President of the United States, there is something he said while campaigning in South Carolina that intrigued (and amused) me. 

At a town hall meeting before the South Carolina vote, Santorum asked a crowd: “Where do you think this concept of equality comes from? It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions…It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that’s where it comes from.” He meant that, if people want equality, then they must live by God’s rules since the concept of equality “doesn’t come from Islam” but from “the God of Abraham.” This begs the question: which rules are God’s rules and who is say what those rules are? But, I digress…

Still, his statement was quite telling because it is painfully obvious that Santorum has absolutely no idea that the God of Islam is the very same God of Abraham. Islam has always maintained that Muslims worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the Hebrew Prophets. In fact, Islam is nothing less than the religion of Abraham himself, as outlined numerous times in the Quran: “And lastly, we have inspired thee [O Muhammad, with this message,] “Follow the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught besides God.” (16:123).
Yes, many Muslims call God by His Arabic name “Allah,” but so do Arab Christians. In fact, open up an Arabic Bible, and the name for God is none other than “Allah.” Why, even Jesus Christ himself called God “Allah.” If someone wants to become “Leader of the Free World,” I would expect that he or she would know that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews. That’s pretty basic information. 

I take Mr. Santorum at his word that he loves and worships the God of Abraham. So do I. That should be our point of reference; that should be our point of convergence. No, we don’t worship the same way, but that is totally irrelevant. The fact that we both call upon the God of Abraham makes us brothers, and as brothers, it should move to bring us together to help make our country better. Presumably, that is why is running for President: to make our country better. So why the divisiveness over the God of Abraham, Who should always be a force for unity and brotherhood.

The same should go for all Americans of faith (and it should extend to those who do not profess an “official faith” or any faith at all). Our common love and worship of the God of Abraham should bring us together. It is what the Lord our God wanted for us. Why not heed Him?

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I am no fan of the Taliban. I hate their barbaric distortion of Islam and their barbaric practices and tactics. They are as much my enemy as they are the enemy of the Afghan people. Also, I – like most Americans – grow weary of the war in Afghanistan, and I look forward to our troops finally coming home from that conflict.

Nevertheless, there is no excuse for what those Marines allegedly did on that video. Yes, the Taliban are our enemy. But, we don’t urinate on their corpses. That is not what Americans should do. Ever.

Imagine, for a moment, if Taliban fighters killed our soldiers, urinated on their corpses, and then posted that footage online. How would that make us feel? How outraged – totally rightly – would we be in this country? Just hypothesizing such a thing incenses me to an infinite degree. Thus, we cannot think that what these Marines allegedly did was excusable. We cannot praise what they did, not even for one second.

It reminds me of this verse of the Qur’an: “Never let your hatred move you to commit injustice…” (5:8). No matter how much those soldiers hated the Taliban, that should never give them justification to urinate on those dead bodies. The same is true with Muslim extremists. No matter what America or “the West” has done wrong (in their minds), this never makes attacking innocent American civilians justifiable. It never allows killing the innocent to be right.

Yet, there is another issue at work here. The actions of American soldiers around the world, right or wrong, reflect upon America as a whole. But everyone in America knows that this video is not the accurate reflection of America. This video does not represent the truth of who we are as a people and what our nation is all about. People cannot look use that video and judge all Americans by that truly repugnant footage. We Americans are not those soldiers on the video who acted in our name.

The same goes with extremists who act in Islam’s name. Their actions do not speak for all Muslims. Their crimes do not represent the overwhelming majority of Muslims. We Muslims are not those extremists who act in our name.

If there can be any good that comes out of this terrible episode, it is that perhaps people can understand that the whole can never be judged by the crimes of the few. Just as it would be terribly wrong to attack an innocent American tourist in London because of this video, it is terribly wrong to firebomb a mosque in NY because of the action of Muslim terrorists around the world. The whole is never like the crimes of the few. Never.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

As the year of 2011 comes to a close, there are so many things over which we can reflect. As I look to the next year, I turn my eyes skyward and beseech the Lord our God for many things, some which I will share here:

Precious Beloved Lord, to You belongs all the praise in the Heavens and Earth. To You belongs the Majesty of the Universe. To You belongs the sovereignty and power over everything. I cannot truly praise You as You deserve to be praised, and so I praise You as You have praised Yourself. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

As You continue Your life-giving love and life over us in 2012, I pray that You continue to bless us with health, sustenance, ease, and happiness. As the next year begins, I pray that You send Your comfort to all those who have lost loved ones. I ask that You bring jobs to the jobless. I ask that You bring shelter to the homeless. I ask that You bring hope to the hopeless. Lord our God, hear my prayer.  

As the days, weeks, and months of 2012 pass, I pray that violence against the innocent ends. I pray that Your protection be extended to everyone on the earth. I pray that You frustrate and foil the Satanic machinations of all those who seek to kill, maim, and mar this world with senseless violence. I pray that You frustrate all the plans of those who seek to murder others and think You told them to do so. For there can be no evil that is truly done in Your Name. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

Precious Beloved, as the 2012 Presidential Election truly heats up, I know that Islam and Muslims will, once again, come to the fore. There will be those who try to cast fear and division about the “secret Muslim agenda.” There will be those who will speak about the “threat” of “Sharia law” to United States. There will be those who want to marginalize the Muslim community from all aspects of American life. I pray that You frustrate these plans.

Moreover, I ask that You frustrate all plans to divide on the basis of religion. The agenda of all people of faith – whatever faith they may be – is to do Your work on this earth; to spread peace and mutual respect; to work together to make this world better for all. Lord please stop the forces of division and hatred in our world. You are the only One to do it the best. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

Most of all, Precious Beloved Lord, I ask for Your unending blessings and grace. Extend Your blessings over me, and my family, and my practice of medicine, and my writing, and everything else that I do. I ask that You pour Your blessings over me as a father, a husband, a brother, a son, a cousin, and a human citizen.

Yet, as Your Noble Messenger told me, I cannot truly believe until I wish for others what I wish for myself. Therefore, please extend Your blessings upon everyone else in the exact same manner above. Your blessings, and mercy, and grace, and love, and beauty are infinite and endless, and so shine their light upon us all. Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

All of this do I ask in Your Most Holy Name, Lord, and thus – Lord our God – hear my prayer. And may the New Year of every single person on earth be blessed, healthy, happy, and prosperous.

Lord our God, hear my prayer. 

In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

Clearly, those Christian “patriots” who want to silence TLC’s “All-American Muslim” series have no idea what is in our scripture and our faith about Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Clearly, these people have no idea about Islam in general. Otherwise, they would not try to bully advertisers into dumping “All-American Muslim” for a truly silly reason: that the Muslims on “All-American Muslim” are “too ordinary.”

No, my house is not decked out with lights or a Christmas tree. Yet, I still love Jesus so very much. As this poem I penned attests:


What was it like, when you stood there alone?
Praying in the East, on you His Light ever shone?

What was it like, when the angel came before thee?
Frightening you greatly, shattering your tranquility?

What was it like, when you were told the news:
That unto you was born the Messiah of the Jews?

Did you not know, that you were more than worthy?
That God chose you above all, that He favored you greatly?

Did you not know, that before you came to be,
The Lord already declared that magnificent were thee?

What was it like, when the Spirit was blown:
When our master was conceived, a miracle to be shown?

What was it like, as you left in fear?
Afraid of the slander that may be placed in the ear?

How did it feel, when the pangs came in earnest?
Did you feel deserted, that the Lord had no interest?

What did it sound like, when our master to you spoke?
How soothing was his voice, covering you like a cloak?

How sweet was the fruit that fell from the tree?
Did it comfort your mind, fill you with tranquility?

How sharp were the stares when, with him, you arrived?
Did their shock give you pain, that they would think you would connive?

How powerful was his voice, when he proclaimed the truth?
Were they amazed by his grace, as he shattered the lies of the uncouth?

O Blessed Mother, upon you I perpetually pray for peace.
And also upon your son, I pray blessings cover him as a fleece.

And if, O Blessed Soul, I get a chance to kiss your hand,
It would be the most honored place I could ever stand!



In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Today was always a special day for me, ever since my university days. For three years of my life, I would have this day off, in fact. I would do nothing special on this day, but it was still nice not to have to attend any classes. Before I attended Marquette University, I had no idea that this special day even existed. Nevertheless, ever since that time, there is a special place in my heart for this day: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Now, naturally, I had thought this day was about Christ (pbuh). Yet, I was surprised to learn that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was not about Christ, but rather his mother, Mary (pbuh). Her story is especially beautiful, as it is recounted in Scripture:

when a woman of [the House of] `Imran prayed: “O my Sustainer! Behold, unto Thee do I vow [the child] that is in, my womb, to be devoted to Thy service. Accept it, then, from me: verily, Thou alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!” But when she had given birth to the child, she said: “O my Sustainer! Behold, I have given birth to a female” – the while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to, and the male is not like the female – “and I have named her Mary. And, verily, I seek Thy protection for her and her offspring against Satan, the accursed. And thereupon her Sustainer accepted the girl-child with goodly acceptance, and caused her to grow up in goodly growth…

It may surprise you that this story is not from the Bible, but rather the Qur’an (3:35-37). Indeed, the story of Jesus and his mother (peace be upon them) is in several places in the Qur’an, and the Virgin Mary, in fact, is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. She is also the only woman to have an entire chapter of the Qur’an named after her.

That is why this day, December 8, is special for me. No, it is not a religious holiday for me. It is not a “Holy Day of Obligation” for me as a Muslim. Yet, that does not mean that the subject of this day, the Holy Virgin, is not very special to me. Indeed she is. In fact, the Qur’an sets up the example of the Virgin Mary as the model of what a true believer should be:

And [We have propounded yet another parable of God-consciousness in the story of] Mary, the daughter of Imran,// who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb],// and who accepted the truth of her Sustainer’s words – and [thus,] of His revelations// – and was one of the truly devout. (66:12)

Indeed, I will be truly successful if I am just a fraction as good as the Virgin Mary. What’s more, in the verses I quoted above from Chapter 3, there is an alternative interpretation of the literal phrase, “and the male is not like the female.” According to the classical commentator Zamakshari, whose interpretation I share, this phrase actually means:

The male [child] which she had prayed for could not have been like the female which she was granted” – which implies that Mary’s excellence would go far beyond any hopes which her mother had ever entertained.

I like this meaning much more. I have said before, and I say again, that I pray the Lord God on High that I may enter His garden and be admitted into the company of the Prophets. And then, I hope to seek out the Virgin Mary, greet her emphatically, and kiss her hand. It would be the best gift the Lord could ever bestow.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

During these days, many of my patients, as they are leaving, tell me: “Er…Happy Holidays!” I know they mean well: they don’t want to offend me by saying “Merry Christmas.” But, I’m here to tell you: I would not be offended if you say to me: “Merry Christmas.”

I mean, that is a very nice thing to wish me: happiness on Christmas Day. No, I don’t celebrate Christmas…but that doesn’t mean that you can’t wish me happiness on Christmas Day. I would welcome such a wish, because, Christmas Day for me is so boring.

Nothing is open…nothing! A couple of years ago, I had to work on Christmas night, and I was looking for something to eat: nothing but the Muslim-owned Mediterranean restaurant was open. But, I didn’t want that food: I wanted Chinese food. But, all the Chinese restaurants were closed! I was totally devastated.

If the wishes of my patients for a “Merry Christmas” came true for me, I would find all restaurants open for business on Christmas night only for me, and if I go to any of them, they will give me food for free in gratitude for coming in on Christmas night. So, please, wish me a Merry Christmas, for God’s sake!

I see no problem for me as a Muslim wishing my Christian friends and neighbors “Merry Christmas” during Christmas season. The same goes for my Jewish friends and neighbors during Rosh Hashana. Once I told a patient, whom I knew to be Jewish, “Happy New Year.” She was quite surprised, and she said, “Happy New Year to you, too?” (Asking if I was Jewish). I said, “No, but I know it’s Rosh Hashana.” I knew she appreciated it, and that made me very happy.

We should do more of this sort of thing. If we each wish our neighbors a “Merry Christmas” during the Christmas season; a “Happy New Year” during Rosh Hashana; a “Happy Kwanzaa” during Kwanzaa; a “Happy Divali” during Divali; the bonds of our brotherhood and sisterhood will be all the stronger. The barriers of hate and fear will be destroyed. And our country will all the better for it.

So, to one and all, I say to you: Have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous, Happy New Year.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! May everyone enjoy this day with their families. I am not going to go into the issue of whether Muslims should or should not celebrate Thanksgiving. For me, I have come to the conclusion that this cultural tradition does not contradict the principles of my faith.

Now, I may not sit and have a traditional American turkey dinner, but that is because I am first-generation American of Egyptian descent. Quite likely, I will have dinner with some Egyptian dishes (and probably turkey, also). Still, what is wrong with getting together on Thanksgiving? Nothing, as far as I am concerned.

Yet, let us all remember that, especially during these difficult times in our country’s history, there are a lot of people who are suffering. There are a lot of people who are out of work. There are a lot of people who will not get to enjoy a turkey dinner with “all the ‘fixins.” Yes, we should be thankful if we are not in their lot.

But, that cannot be the end of it. We have to try to help them. That is the essence of what it means to be truly thankful. Scripture says to us:

And [remember the time] when your Sustainer made [this promise] known: ‘If you are grateful [to Me], I shall most certainly give you more and more;but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!” (14:7)

What better way to be grateful to the Lord than helping those who are less fortunate? Here in Chicago, a group of friends of mine – Muslims – have a turkey drive (, during which they distribute 750 turkeys to needy families on the South Side of Chicago. I try to contribute something every single year. It is the very least I can do, in gratitude for the tremendous blessings I have been given.

I pray that everyone in our country, and in our world, can be thankful for something this Thanksgiving season. And I pray that each of us can try to help out those who need such help. That is the spirit of Thanksgiving. That is the true essence of what it means to be thankful.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I was listening to one of my favorite programs, NPR’s Fresh Air, and the show was about the Nobel Prize in Physics, which was awarded to two teams of scientists who showed that the expansion of the Universe is actually accelerating. It is quite fascinating, and I encourage you to listen to the show.

Astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, who was interviewed in the show, said:

When we started getting results that showed that it was not slowing … [that] in fact it wasn’t slowing at all — it was speeding up — it was a pretty big shock. At the time, when you first get those results, it doesn’t worry you too much … because you know you haven’t finished doing the calibration. The more we did the calibration, the more the results didn’t go away.

He explained it this way:

It would be a little like throwing an apple up in the air and you would expect that it would be pulled back down due to gravity. What we were seeing was a little bit like throwing the apple up in the air and seeing it blast off into space.

These findings have led scientists to hypothesize that “empty space” is not empty at all:

The results of Perlmutter, Riess and Schmidt’s research may suggest that the empty space in the universe isn’t really empty — that it might be filled with what scientists called dark energy. The dark energy, spread throughout the universe, is thought to be associated with all empty space and is somehow working against gravity to push the universe apart faster and faster.

You know, there has been so much that has been said and written about the conflict between religion and science. In the minds of many, I suspect, religion and science are polar opposites. I see it quite differently.

In the wonders of science, I see the wonders of God and His creative powers. When I was listening to the show, I could not help but remember this verse of the Qur’an:

AND IT IS We [God] who have built the universe with [Our creative] power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it. (51:47)

In that expanding Universe, in “them thar hills,” I see the Lord Our God.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

Today, the over 2 million pilgrims are now standing upon the plain of Arafat, fulfilling the most essential and important ritual of the Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every able-bodied Muslim must perform once in his or her lifetime. I was blessed to perform the pilgrimage in 2003, and it was the most powerful experience of my entire life. I recount the pilgrimage in a diary here.

On Arafat, it is said, Adam and Eve were first reunited after their expulsion from the Garden. In this vast and flat plain, pilgrims stand before the Lord and beseech Him for forgiveness and mercy. I still remember this day as if it was yesterday. I could not stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks: I was in total awe of the Power and Majesty of the Lord and ashamed and horrified by the sins that I brought with me to that holy place. And the emotion of standing there before God – like I will on Judgment Day – was completely overwhelming.

Not only is the experience of Arafat humbling, but it is also cleansing, because after the sun sets, all of the pilgrim’s sins are forgiven. At that moment, the pilgrim is born anew. It is a promise from the Lord.

Yet, even after we go to the Hajj and stand on Arafat, we can still have our own Arafat moments wherever we may be. We don’t have to be on Arafat to stand before the Lord and ask His forgiveness. We don’t have to be on Arafat to beseech our Lord’s Beauty and Mercy. We don’t have to be on Arafat to tremble in our shame and humility before the Lord. Wherever we may be, the Shining, Beautiful Face of our Lord is always there. All we have to do is look and seek its radiant light.

And so, let us pledge to have our Arafat moments every single day.

Today, I am fasting, which is something Muslims who are not on the Hajj are encouraged to do, in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who are at Arafat today. I am very happy to do so, because of the beauty of the experience I had at Arafat. Every single day we live and breathe on this earth, we commit sins – despite the love of the Lord flowing upon us as a river of life-giving water. But, our own plains of Arafat are always there, and we can go there and ask His pardon at any time. So, let us do it. We will be all the better because of it.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

In 2002, I penned an article on this website about my belief about Halloween. At that time, I said that I will not participate in the activities surrounding Halloween:

Halloween is upon us, and scores of children dressed up as everything imaginable will soon hit the streets, going door-to-door for candy. This year my five-year-old daughter is old enough to go. Alas, I will not let her. This is not because I am afraid for her safety, or I do not want her to eat her body weight in candy (though these are legitimate concerns). My decision is based on Islamic principles.

Islam accepts the cultural traditions of a people as long as those traditions agree with Islamic values. Thus, blue jeans, baseball caps, hot dogs, and other quintessential American items are wholeheartedly accepted by Islam. I am perplexed when some American Muslims wear Arab dress and pass this off as “Islamic” attire. Nonsense. A pair of jeans and a T-shirt is as Islamic as it gets. A similar argument can be made about such holidays as Mother’s or Father’s Day. Honoring our parents is so strongly stressed in Islam; Muslims should have no problem commemorating such holidays.

And this is why I will not send my daughter trick or treating this year or any other year. Halloween honors Celtic and Roman gods. Islam is strictly monotheistic, and anything having to do with the worship of any other god besides the Most Holy One is out of the question.

Well, many things have happened to me since I typed those words: I have gotten a bit older, I have had more children, and my views on Halloween itself have softened quite a bit. In fact, for the past several years now, I have been trick-or-treating with my kids in the neighborhood, and we have been passing out candy to the children who come to our door.

First of all, not answering the door so as to “not participate” is really not neighborly at all. I did that one year, and it felt terrible. If I am truly to be godly, which I always strive to be, I must be a good neighbor. But, then I started to reflect over Halloween itself. Yes, it may have once been a Roman/Celtic festival…but in America today, it is a day when people have fun by dressing in costume and passing out candy to children. There is nothing religious to it at all, and that is why I will be walking around the block and saying, “Trick or Treat.”

No, I am not going to start celebrating Christmas, even though it can be argued that it has lost all religious significance. But, Halloween is really a cultural thing here in America, and I now feel that there is nothing wrong with taking part. Indeed, some may claim that I have “flip-flopped” or “sold out” be “more American.” I reject that completely.

I am an American: 100%. I am not ashamed of this at all. As an American, I participate in various cultural traditions if I want, such as Fourth of July or Memorial Day celebrations. One of these cultural traditions is Halloween, and because it is fun for both me and my children, I am going to participate. Nothing gruesome or grizzly…just nice, clean fun. This year, I am going as a Jedi Knight, one of the things I have always dreamed of being.

When I look back at what I wrote, I chuckle a bit, because I see the writing of a devout, but perhaps naive, former version of me. I have not lost any of my zeal for the Lord or, I hope, any of my devotion to Him. But, I have taken the advice of many of the commentators who chimed in on my article: “lighten up.” Indeed, I have done just that.

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